Weird and wonderful interview questions

  | James Innes

Weird and wonderful interview questions

Although many job interviews will follow the traditional course of an employer asking you about your experience, skills, aptitude and fit for the role, some organisations have taken to throw in the odd curveball or two, testing candidates’ abilities to think on their feet. Google, Apple, Facebook, and major investment banks are just some of the companies that have been known to use this tactic. By their very nature, these questions cannot be predicted in advance. However, you can practice how to answer such a type of question so, if something unexpected is thrown at you during an interview, you will be as prepared for it as best you can be.

James Innes, best-selling author and founder of The Resume Center USA discusses these weird and wonderful questions in “The Interview Book”, and “The Interview Question & Answer Book”, and gives examples as well as how you might answer them.

Here are three examples which have been asked in actual interviews.

Question: See this pen? Can you sell it to me now? (Alternative and related questions: See this pencil/paperclip/computer/desk/mobile phone/shoe etc.

First of all work out the mean behind the question.

You might think this question is only likely to be asked if you work in sales – but you’d be wrong. It can be asked of almost anyone, regardless of whether sales skills are important to their job. It’s a question which forces a candidate to think on their feet whilst under pressure – and this can tell an interviewer a lot about a candidate, not least how clearly they are able to think and to communicate. It’s a classic question – some might say cliché – but it nonetheless regularly features in interviews.

Suggested answers.

There are two possible ways of answering this question – depending on your line of work. If you work in sales then you shouldn’t need too much advice as to how to handle the question. You simply need to demonstrate your standard sales patter and techniques to the interviewer, inventing pricing, discount offers, payment terms, etc. as you go. The precise details are not important; it’s the methods you employ which count – identifying the customer’s needs and matching those to the specific benefits of the product, etc.

If, on the other hand, you don’t work in sales (which is the majority of people) then this question is going to be a little trickier to handle. Don’t let yourself be panicked, though; the interviewer knows full well that you are not used to selling and they won’t be expecting you to have a whole arsenal of sales techniques at your disposal. And don’t take yourself too seriously; good people are always light-hearted and friendly.

Concentrate on:

talking the interviewer into expressing a need – or needs;

describing the object, including both its features and, more importantly, its benefits;

discussing pricing (which you will invent off the top of your head);

asking them directly for the sale.


I’m sure you’ll agree with me that a pen is vital to your day-to-day work and it’s therefore important to make sure you’ve got just the right one. This pen is solidly constructed so as to be durable for everyday use – even if it rolls off your desk onto the floor. It has a plentiful ink reserve so there’s less chance of the pen running dry at a critical moment. It fits comfortably into the hand and even has a clip so you can safely attach it to your jacket pocket when you’re on the move. I can offer you this pen at the very reasonable price of 30 cents. However, if you were to take three – I’m sure your colleagues would also be interested – then I could offer you a 20 cent discount, making a total of just 70 cents. How many would you like?

Question: If you were an animal at the zoo, which animal would you be and why? (Alternative and related questions: If you were a dog, if you were a biscuit, if you were a fruit, if you were a car, what type would you be etc.).

The meaning behind the question:

While the question may, on the face of it, seem rather silly, the answers give can be very revealing. The interviewer is obviously testing your ability to think on your feet – but they are also looking for some further insight into how you perceive yourself.

A suggested answer

This is definitely one of the most difficult questions to answer. You’ve got to quickly think of all the different possible animals (or dog breeds or cars, etc.) and then pick one which has certain – positive – characteristics which you feel match your own. You’ve then got to explain your choice to the interviewer. This isn’t easy – but don’t panic; stall for time if necessary. And remember that there is no ‘correct’ answer to the question – it’s all about how you reach your answer and how you express yourself.


I think the chimpanzee springs to my mind. They’re a lot like humans really. They work together as a team, cooperate with each other for the benefit of the whole group, are sensitive to each other socially – and they always seem to have a good sense of fun and humour.

Question: If there was a monkey hanging from a chandelier, how would you get it down? (Alternative and related questions: If there was a venomous snake sunbathing on your patio, how would you get rid of it? If a hippo falls in a hole, how would you get it out?)

The meaning behind the question

You might think you’ll never get asked such a seemingly ridiculous question in an interview, but James Innes himself was asked precisely this question many years ago.

Your answer

There is no ‘right’ answer to this sort of question. It is purely a test of your ability to analyse a problem and identify possible solutions. Once you realise this you will hopefully be a lot less rattled by the question. Don’t lose your sense of humour, but telling the interviewer you’d probably get your rifle out is unlikely to go down well.


I suppose there are a number of possible solutions to this problem. It’s a case of identifying these possible solutions and selecting the one which has the best chance of success. The most obvious idea which springs to my mind is to try to entice it down by offering it, for example, a banana. Alternatively, I could try to scare it down. Shouting at it would probably make it even less likely to come down, but flicking the light switch on and off might work. Spraying water at it might also convince him to budge but there’s perhaps too much risk of collateral damage. Failing that, I think I’d find the monkey’s owner or keeper and I’d delegate the task to them.

There is no guarantee that your interview will contain any such weird and wonderful questions which, by their nature are unpredictable and are hard to answer. They are very much designed to test your ability to think on your feet so, if something unexpected is thrown at you, take a deep breath, try to work out what the interview is looking for, and prepare your answer accordingly. Always try to keep you sense of humour as well – you may need it!

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